There have been different ages in human history, as our civilization has progressed. These ages were based on an idea of how progress could be made. The agricultural age was when progress was dominated by working to produce food. The industrial change changed it all and factories now decided progress and economies with bigger and better industries progressed more than the others. The information age changed it all with knowledge and computers and the Internet becoming the most dominant factors of development and progress.
It is said the next stage of development will be when machines will become smarter then men and that age will be the ‘Intelligent Age’. This will be the era when virtual reality will take over most industries, there will be a 3D internet, nanotechnology and biotechnology will dominate and have the power to create just about anything. Robots of all kinds will share workplaces with humans.
So while the agriculture age put human labor as the most important asset, mastering certain skills dominated the industrial age. The information age was all about knowledge and learning. With knowledge now freely available and in abundance the skill of the future will be our ability to use that knowledge most creatively and innovatively. In brief-labor was power in the agricultural age, skills were power in the industrial age, knowledge was power in the information age and creativity will be the power in the intelligent age.
However as we progress towards the intelligent age we have a brief time to shape this age. Rita J. King and Joshua Fouts popularized this fleeting period between the two longer eras as the ‘Imagination Age,’ a time during which humanity must imagine and then create, together, the systems of the new global economy and culture.
It’s critical we use our imagination well today to shape a good tomorrow, for the machines we can dream of today will decide the way our future will look like.
THE IMAGINATION AGE IS HERE
The world will be dominated by the ‘imagination economy’. Agricultural age shaped our culture and our traditions, the industrial age influenced our political systems, and gave birth to a new culture of mass media, newspapers and films. These changed the world. It became more literate, moved from rural life to an urban lifestyle. The information age changed the world again, reducing the role of newspapers and putting the power in the hands of the common man. Today everybody is a media house thanks to the Internet and the social networking sites.
In the imagination age people with intuitive and creative thinking will shape the world. They will have the most power. Michael Cox the Chief economist at the Federal Bank has analyzed that economic trends show a shift towards creative jobs, and jobs which demand high levels of social and emotional intelligence- A clear indicator that the imagination age is here.
POWER OF IDEAS
Artificial Intelligence, robotics and the likes will change the whole landscape. It’s critical we use our imagination well today to shape a good tomorrow, for the machines we can dream of today will decide the way our future will look like. Knowledge is no more the deciding factor for success, rather the innovative ways in which one can use that knowledge is what will decide success.
Earlier knowledge was power, today idea is power. One great idea can disrupt a whole industry and companies like AirBnB, Uber, Amazon, are the best examples of how a simple idea did not just change an industry but changed the world. It is great ideas and innovations that will reshape our world. The world today needs thinkers, artists, writers who have the ability to look at things from a different perspective, who question, who challenge the status quo, who ask why and why not. Today we have the best tools and the best technology than we ever had before and all we need are artists who can use them to paint a beautiful world. What these thought leaders imagine is what we will become.
The leaders of the imagination age need to be different from those of the past. Leaders who are creative, innovative and willing to experiment will be the real heroes. A leader who can control is no more going to be the most powerful one; rather the one who can generate the best ideas will be powerful. The leaders of the future need to be different because the work place of the future is going to be different.
FUTURE OF WORK
The future of work and the workplace is going to be very different. Jobs as we know them today are going to change. According to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report “approximately 65 percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.” Deloitte and Oxford University too came up with a research stating that in two decades, 35% of the work that UK employees currently perform would be replaced by machines. So the workplace landscape will see a dramatic change.
Technology will create new and interesting competitors. Think about it –did the two wheeler industry know that it’s main competitor would be the metro? Just as threats to the business would come from unexpected sources so would opportunities. So businesses need to be more fluid and leaders need to be ready to venture into new territories and sectors. They need to be quick to change their business models according to the needs to the consumer and the market place. Nokia started as a paper mill company and then kept transforming. The day it stopped re-inventing itself it disappeared. IBM started as the king of PC manufacturing, and today it is into providing IT expertise and computing services to various businesses. Shell actually started out by selling shells and other rare collectibles but changed focus as the oil boom took on. In the early 20th century they merged with the Royal Dutch Petroleum and became the new Royal Dutch Shell group. Wipro started in 1945 by manufacturing and selling vegetable oil and today it’s one of the world’s largest IT service companies. National Geographic magazine was not affected by the decline of the print industry. While many of its counterparts closed shop Nat Geo moved fast and changed and today lives on as the brand thrives and flourishes on Instagram, Facebook Twitter etc with millions of loyal followers.
Magazines changing into apps, oil manufactures changing into technology giants- that’s what is called adapting to the changing times and only companies that are ready to change and adapt will survive. As companies will keep changing and adapting they will need a workforce that can do the same. As the nature of the workforce will change so will HR and its role.
THE ROLE OF HR IN THE NEW WORLD
Fluid workforce is what will dominate. It is a workforce that can be made to flow, to adapt and move quickly from one work profile to the other. There will be demand for people who are quick learners and adapters. There was a time we studied, we worked and then we retired. Today we study we learn, we work, we un-learn, and re-learn and work again. So GE has gone ahead and made ‘quick adaption’ a part of its culture. It has a new program called ‘Fastworks’ which is aimed at training the workforce to think and work like a lean startup and develop products faster.
Fluid and free is what the workforce will look like tomorrow. It is predicted that within 10 years many companies would have no full time employees except the C-suit. As companies move from one business model to the other it would be better to hire freelancers who meet the needs of the hour. Consequently organization structure would change and become flatter.
The skills most in demand will be people skills. According to a study done by Deloitte skills like listening, empathy, communication will be in big demand. As things change companies would require people who are experts at managing people and helping them adapt and change. Trainers would be in demand who would hand-hold the work force and take them through these tumultuous times. . According to a research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Americans would have 12-14 careers in their lifetime, and that would be true for all countries. So companies would require leaders who can create a vibrant and dynamic learning environment within the organization as that would help attract the best talent.
The future is exciting and very different and also unknown. The world is set to transform and become a totally different place. While retaining the human element in this increasingly virtual and digitized world is going to be a challenge, it will be a world full of opportunities and hope.
How beautiful that world will look is what we need to imagine today and plan accordingly. We are in the imagination age and lets together use all our creativity and imagine a great future and work towards it before the machines take over.
Labor was power in the agricultural age, skills were power in the industrial age, knowledge was power in the information age and creativity will be the power in the intelligent age.